New York Times: Journalists Who Broke News on NSA Surveillance Return to the US
Last Friday, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras returned to the U.S. for the first time since their explosive articles on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden began being published last June. Each reporter flew into New York City to accept the George Polk Award for their incredible pieces about NSA wrongdoing. Their entry into the country was closely watched, as numerous politicians and opinion leaders have previously called for journalists working with Snowden to be criminally charged themselves. They entered the country, however, without incident.
Poitras, along with Snowden, has also been awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. That honor will be presented at a luncheon in Washington, DC later this month.
Additional media coverage from GAP’s recent American Whistleblower Tour stop at Syracuse University. This radio piece highlights the professional plights of NSA whistleblower Tom Drake and FDA whistleblower Susan Wood.
The Senate has unanimously approved a bill cosponsored by Mark Warner (D-Va) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that “makes federal agencies standardize the way they report spending and disclose all of it on a common, easy-to-search website.” If passed, agencies would have three years to conform to the law.
Key Quote: In Virginia, he said, one benefit from his efforts to push transparency was the serious discussion in 2004 about the ever-fraught issue of taxes and state government spending. The result was a major tax reform that won fairly broad bipartisan support.
More than two dozen groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Responsive Politics and the Government Accountability Project supported the measure.
On Friday, University of North Carolina (UNC) officials released reports they commissioned from outside academic professionals concerning the findings of whistleblower Mary Willingham, who exposed both the institution’s “paper-class” scandal and student-athlete literacy levels. While UNC officials say these new findings illustrate that the whistleblower misinterpreted her data, journalists following the issue closely are already raising questions about what these “outside” reports show. Willingham is reportedly taking the time to fully research this new data before commenting on it at length. CNN also covered the development.
Key Quote: Frankly, it’s difficult for a nonexpert to sort out this statistical dispute. When I interviewed Willingham, she stood behind her work and said [Provost] Dean had mischaracterized it. The diagnostic test on which she relied was administered by a UNC-hired Ph.D. psychologist, she pointed out. The university has since terminated the contract of that psychologist – a move that raises suspicions in my mind.
Willingham told me her work included a writing test as well as the vocabulary questions assessed by the outside experts. And her evaluation incorporated athletes’ SAT and ACT entrance exams, she said. As best I can tell, UNC’s hired experts weren’t asked to look at all the information on which Willingham based her conclusions. Why not? And why didn’t they interview her to try to get to the bottom of the confusion?
Then there’s this perplexity: The majority of the students Willingham evaluated were “special admits,” meaning their enrollment at UNC required officials to give extra consideration and weight to their athletic prowess. Without their running or dribbling or passing talents, they might not have gained admission (to put it politely). Yet the trio of retained experts “determined that the majority of the students … scored at or above college entry level.” I’m no literacy guru, but if the young jocks are scoring at or above college level, why did they require special consideration to gain admission in the first place? Why were they being screened for learning disabilities? Weird.
Key Quote (CNN): When contacted by CNN, the psychologist who administered the tests to the student-athletes in Willingham’s study said she backs Willingham, and verified that no one at UNC has ever reached out to talk to her about her work.
Late last week, NSA whistleblower Tom Drake spoke in Salt Lake City about the serious threats that NSA surveillance programs pose to the Constitution. Some video coverage of the event is available here.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.